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Kathryn Hansen

In: Sexual Sites, Seminal Attitudes: Sexualities, Masculinities and Culture in South Asia

Chapter 4: Theatrical Transvestism in the Parsi, Gujarati and Marathi Theatres (1850–1940)

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Theatrical Transvestism in the Parsi, Gujarati and Marathi Theatres (1850–1940)
Theatrical transvestism in the Parsi, Gujarati and Marathi theatres (1850–1940)
KathrynHansen

Female impersonation, the practice of men playing women's roles, has a long history in South Asian theatre. In Patanjali's grammatical text, the Mahabhasya (c. 150 b.c.), a male actor who plays female roles is described as a bhrukumsa, one who ‘flutters his brows.’1 The well known dramaturgical compendium of ancient India, the Natyasastra (c. 2–4 a.d.), mentions both men assuming the female role, an impersonation termed rupanusarini (imitative) and women taking on the male role.2 Female impersonation continues today in regional theatrical arts such as the Kathakali of Kerala, the Ram Lila of Uttar Pradesh and numerous local and folk forms.3 However, theatrical transvestism as a ...

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